Rainbows End

Front Cover
Macmillan, Apr 3, 2007 - Fiction - 381 pages
41 Reviews

Four time Hugo Award winner Vernor Vinge has taken readers to the depths of space and into the far future in his bestselling novels A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. Now, he has written a science-fiction thriller set in a place and time as exciting and strange as any far-future world: San Diego, California, 2025.

Robert Gu is a recovering Alzheimer's patient. The world that he remembers was much as we know it today. Now, as he regains his faculties through a cure developed during the years of his near-fatal decline, he discovers that the world has changed and so has his place in it. He was a world-renowned poet. Now he is seventy-five years old, though by a medical miracle he looks much younger, and he's starting over, for the first time unsure of his poetic gifts. Living with his son's family, he has no choice but to learn how to cope with a new information age in which the virtual and the real are a seamless continuum, layers of reality built on digital views seen by a single person or millions, depending on your choice. But the consensus reality of the digital world is available only if, like his thirteen-year-old granddaughter Miri, you know how to wear your wireless access—through nodes designed into smart clothes—and to see the digital context—through smart contact lenses.

With knowledge comes risk. When Robert begins to re-train at Fairmont High, learning with other older people what is second nature to Miri and other teens at school, he unwittingly becomes part of a wide-ranging conspiracy to use technology as a tool for world domination.

In a world where every computer chip has Homeland Security built-in, this conspiracy is something that baffles even the most sophisticated security analysts, including Robert's son and daughter-in law, two top people in the U.S. military. And even Miri, in her attempts to protect her grandfather, may be entangled in the plot.

As Robert becomes more deeply involved in conspiracy, he is shocked to learn of a radical change planned for the UCSD Geisel Library; all the books there, and worldwide, would cease to physically exist. He and his fellow re-trainees feel compelled to join protests against the change. With forces around the world converging on San Diego, both the conspiracy and the protest climax in a spectacular moment as unique and satisfying as it is unexpected. This is science fiction at its very best, by a master storyteller at his peak.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - scottcholstad - LibraryThing

I admittedly haven't read much Vernor Vinge, but I know some of his books have won several Hugo Awards, including this one. But whenever I read him, I just don't enjoy his books. Admittedly, Vinge is ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DLMorrese - LibraryThing

The odd future described by this book is both depressing and hopeful. It is a world in which humans regularly retreat into virtual reality, often corresponding to their chosen ‘belief circles,’ as an ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Dumb Luck And Smart Thinking
1
Mr Rabbit Visits Barcelona
7
The Return
19
A Minefield Made in Heaven
26
An Excellent Affiliance
40
Dr Xiangs SHE
55
So Much Technology So Little Talent
60
The Ezra Pound Incident
68
Failure Is an Option
215
The Officer of the Watch
220
When Belief Circles Collide
234
The Bicycle Attack
243
In the Cathedral
250
The Library Chooses
257
You Cant Ask Alice Anymore
272
HowtoSurviveTheNextThirtyMinutespdf
279

No UserServiceable Parts Within
75
Carrot Greens
89
An Excellent Thesis Topic
97
Introduction to the Librareome Project
105
Guardians of the Past Handmaidens of the Future
112
The Miri Gang is Born
130
The Mysterious Stranger
143
When Metaphors Are Real
161
The Front Bathroom Incident
185
Alfred Volunteers
201
The Myasthenic Spelunker Society
208
The Revocation Attack
290
The Animal Model?
302
Dr Xiang Takes Charge
308
When the Network Stops
319
Bob Contemplates Nuclear CarpetBombing
323
The Minimum Sufficient Response
327
Freedom on a Very Long Leash
339
The British Museum and the British Library
351
The Missing Apostrophe
361
EPILOGUE
373
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

[Chapters 1 and 2 of Rainbows End, by Vernor Vinge, Tor Books]

CHAPTER 01: Mr. Rabbit Visits Barcelona

###

Within the intelligence services of the Indo-European Alliance, there were a handful of bureaucratic superstars, people such as Günberk Braun of the EUIB. Hopefully, their identities were unknown -- or a mass of contradictions -- to the general public. The superstars had their own heroes. In particular, when people like Günberk Braun were confronted with the most desperate problems, there was a place to get help. There was a certain department in India''s External Intelligence Agency. It didn''t show up in EIA organization charts, and its purpose was happily undefined. Basically, it was whatever its boss thought it should be. That boss was an Indian national known (to those very few who knew of him at all) as Alfred Vaz.

Braun took his terrifying discovery to Vaz. At first, the older man was as taken aback as Braun himself had been. But Vaz was a fixer. "With the proper human resources, you can solve almost any problem," he said. "Give me a few days. Let''s see what I can dig up."

###

In downtown Barcelona, three days later:

The rabbit hopped onto the unoccupied wicker chair and thence to the middle of the table, between the teacups and the condiments. It tipped its top hat first at Alfred Vaz and then at Günberk Braun and Keiko Mitsuri. "Have I got a deal for you!" it said. Altogether, it was an unremarkable example of its type.

Alfred reached out and swiped his hand through the image, just to emphasize his own substance. "We''re the ones with the deal."

"Hmph." The rabbit plunked its ass down on the table and pulled a tiny tea service out from behind the salt and pepper. It poured itself a drop or two -- enough to fill its cup -- and took a sip. "I''m all ears." It wiggled two long ones to emphasize the point.

From the other side of table, Günberk Braun gave the creature a long stare. Braun was as ephemeral as the rabbit, but he projected a dour earnestness that was quite consistent with his real personality. Alfred thought he detected a certain surprised disappointment in the younger man''s expression. In fact, after a moment, Günberk sent him a silent message.

Braun --> Mitsuri, Vaz: This is the best you could recruit, Alfred?

Alfred didn''t reply directly. Instead, he turned to the creature sitting on the table. "Welcome to Barcelona, Mr. Rabbit," he said. He waved at the towers of the Sagrada Familia that soared up and up from just across the street. The cathedral was best seen without virtual elaboration; after all, the reality of Gaudí architecture was gaudy beyond the imagination of modern revisionists. "Do you have any idea why we selected this location for our meeting?"

The rabbit sipped its tea. Its gaze slid in a very un-rabbity way to take in the noisy crowds that swept past the tables, to scan the costumes and body-plans of tourists and locals. "Ah, is it that Barcelona is a place for the beautiful and the bizarre, one of the few great cities of the twentieth century whose charm survives in the modern world? Could it be that on the side, you and your families are taking touchy-feely tours through Parc Güell and writing it all off on your expense accounts?" He stared at Braun and at Keiko Mitsuri. Mitsuri was frankly masked. She looked a bit like Marcel Duchamp''s nude, built from a shifting complex of crystal planes. The rabbit shrugged, "But then again, maybe you two are thousands of kilometers away."

Keiko laughed. "Oh, don''t be so indecisive," she said, speaking with a completely synthetic accent and syntax. "I''m quite happy to be in Parc Güell right now, feeling reality with my very own real hands."

Mitsuri --> Braun, Vaz: In fact, I''m in my office, admiring the moonlight on Tokyo bay.

The rabbit continued, ignorant of the silent messaging byplay: "Whatever. In any case, the real reasons for meeting here: Barcelona has very direct connections to wherever you''re really from, and modern security to disguise what we say. Best of all, it has laws banning popular and police snooping ... unless of course you are the EU Intelligence Board."

Mitsuri --> Braun, Vaz: Well, that''s one third of a correct guess.

Braun --> Mitsuri, Vaz: Mr. Rabbit himself is calling from some distance. An EU real-time estimate hung in the air above the little creature''s head: 75 percent probability that the mind behind the rabbit image was in North America.

Alfred leaned toward the rabbit and smiled. As the agent with physical presence, Vaz had limitations -- but some advantages, too. "No, we''re not the secret police. And yes, we wanted some secure communication that was a bit more personal than text messaging." He tapped his chest. "In particular, you see me physically here. It builds trust." And should give you all sorts of invalid clues. Vaz waved to a waiter, ordered a glass of Rioja. Then, turning back to the creature on the tablecloth: "In recent months, you have bragged many things, Mr. Rabbit. Others brag similarly nowadays, but you have certificates that are difficult to come by. Various people with notable reputations have endorsed your abilities."

The rabbit preened. This was a rabbit with many implausible mannerisms. Physical realism did not rank high in its priorities. "Of course I am highly recommended. For any problem, political, military, scientific, artistic, or amorous -- meet my terms, and I will deliver."

Mitsuri --> Braun, Vaz: Go ahead, Alfred.

Braun --> Mitsuri, Vaz: Yes, the minimal version of course. Nothing more till we see some results that we couldn''t make for ourselves.

Alfred nodded as if to himself. "Our problem has nothing to do with politics or war, Mr. Rabbit. We have only some scientific interests."

The rabbit ears waggled. "So? Post your needs to the answer boards. That may get you results almost as good as mine, almost as fast. And for certain, a thousand times cheaper."

Wine arrived. Vaz made a thing of sniffing the bouquet. He glanced across the street. The bidding on physical tour slots to La Sagrada Familia was closed for the day, but there was still a queue of people near the cathedral entrance, people hoping for no-shows. It proved once again that the most important things were those you could touch. He looked back at the gray rabbit. "We have needs that are more basic than picking the brains of a few thousand analysts. Our questions require serious, um, experimentation. Some of that has already been done. Much remains. All together, our project is the size you might imagine for a government crash research program."

The rabbit grinned, revealing ivory incisors. "Heh. A government crash program? That''s twentieth-century foolishness. Market demands are always more effective. You just have to fool the market into cooperating."

"Maybe. But what we want to do is ..." The hell of it was, even the cover story was extreme. "What we want is, um, administrative authority at a large physical laboratory."

The rabbit froze, and for an instant it looked like a real herbivore, one suddenly caught in a bright light. "Oh? What kind of physical lab?"

"Globally integrated life sciences."

"Well, well, well." Rabbit sat back, communing with itself -- hopefully with itself alone. EU Intelligence set a 65% probability that Rabbit was not sharing the big picture with others, 95% that it was not a tool of China or the U.S.A. Alfred''s own organization in India was even more confident of these assumptions.

The rabbit set down his teacup. "I''m intrigued. So this is not an information provision job. You really want me to subvert a major installation."

"Just for a short time," said Günberk.

"Whatever. You''ve come to the right fellow." Its nose quivered. "I''m sure you know the possibilities. In Europe there are a scattering of top institutions, but none is totally integrated -- and for now they remain in the backwash of sites in China and the U.S.A."

Vaz didn''t nod, but the rabbit was right. There were brilliant researchers the world over, but only a few data-intensive labs. In the twentieth century, technical superiority of major labs might last thirty years. Nowadays, things changed faster, but Europe was a little behind. The Bhopal complex in India was more integrated, but lagging in micro-automation. It might be several years before China and the U.S.A. lost their current edge.

The rabbit was chuckling to itself: "Hm, hm. So it must be either the labs in Wuhan or those in Southern California. I could work my miracles with either, of course." That was a lie, or else Alfred''s people had totally misjudged this fine furry fiend.

Keiko said, "We''d prefer the biotech complex in San Diego, California."

Alfred had a smooth explanation ready: "We''ve studied the San Diego labs for some months. We know it has the resources we need." In fact, San Diego was where Günberk Braun''s terrible suspicions were focused.

"Just what are you planning?"

Günberk gave a sour smile. "Let us proceed by installments, Mr. Rabbit. For the first installment, we suggest a thirty-day deadline. We''d like from you a survey of the San Diego labs'' security. More important, we need credible evidence that you can provide a team of local people to carry out physical acts in and near those labs."

"Well then. I will hop right on it." The rabbit rolled its eyes. "It''s obvious you''re looking for an expendable pl

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